Among the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest issues in the preseason so far has been their penchant for fouling. Luke Walton’s team has committed 61 fouls in two games so far, leading to 68 free throw attempts for the Denver Nuggets, a major disparity that undoubtedly hurt the team in their two losses.
The Lakers aren’t the only team struggling with this as Tuesday’s game between the Rockets and Grizzlies saw 71 fouls called. One reason many are pointing to is the emphasis the league has put on the freedom of movement rule meaning defenders aren’t allowed to put their hands on players when they are cutting or moving around screens.
The rule hasn’t changed, they’re just calling it more,” Walton explained. “It’s like anything, it’s habits. We talk to players if someone is coming off a pick, get in front of them, chest them and take them off their line. So these are all habits that are going to have to be broken and retaught.”
Walton has already been hard at work trying to break his team of these habits in numerous ways. “People learn better different ways, so we get in the film room and show them, we get on the court and let their bodies go through it,” he said.
“We have them explain the rules to their teammates so they can learn from that as well. We’re hitting them multiple ways, but we just have to keep practicing.”
This will be crucial for the success of the Lakers on the defensive end. They want to run and the best way to do so is to get stops, but if the team is constantly fouling that will only slow the game down even more.
Walton knows what his team has to do, but is glad the Lakers are getting this out in the preseason. “That’s back-to-back games where we fouled too much. But, that’s preseason. That’s what it’s for,” Walton conceded.
“I’d rather us be physical and pick up fouls right now, and then clean up how we’re being physical. It’s about getting our chest on people instead of trying to hold and wrap up and grab. And doing your work early. If you do your work early, it’s a lot easier to be clean and physical.”
Walton nonetheless picked up a technical foul on Tuesday because of his frustration with the frequency of whistles. “I don’t play. I don’t play around. I like getting T’s,” he quipped.
“I wasn’t happy about it on my drive home, but I was OK with it when it happened. I deserved the T. I apologized to J.T. afterwards. He’s a good ref.”